Trending: Shifts in the Modeling Paradigm

Anyone with a finger on the pulse of the fashion industry understands the gravity of making the cover of Vogue magazine. An American staple since 1892, Vogue is responsible for bringing high fashion into the homes of fashionistas the world over.

Since the 1960s when fashion started roaring from the streets of London, men and women have been diving into their mailboxes and ravaging newsstands for a taste of the industry — beautiful women, editorial spreads, informative articles and dynamite ad campaigns.

The term “supermodel” was made popular in the ‘80s when cover girls were catapulted to international fame. By the ‘90s a revolution was sparked.

Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Karen Mulder, Elaine Irwin, Niki Taylor, Yasmeen Ghauri, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell & Tatjana Patitz photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue, April 1992

Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Karen Mulder, Elaine Irwin, Niki Taylor, Yasmeen Ghauri, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell & Tatjana Patitz photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue, April 1992

Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, Nikki Taylor, Amber Valletta… These women drenched the pages of Vogue as ethereal vixens of 20th century style and class.

The faces of supermodels filled entire newsstands, covered billboards and illuminated the small screen in ads for Cover Girl, Calvin Klein, Guess jeans and Coca-Cola. Linda Evangelista’s “we don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day” comment practically became an American anthem.

The ethos of fashion fueled a new era of glamour and Vogue‘s September issue emerged as the supreme power.

Megan Dennison has worked as a buyer for Von Maur department store, and is currently an account executive for leg wear and hosiery companies in Chicago.

“It’s the Bible,” Dennison said about Vogue‘s September issue. “There is an excitement it creates for fall and winter.” As a buyer, the September issue was “everything,” Dennison said.

By the early ‘90s Hollywood had taken notice of fashion’s authority. Suddenly the red carpet was transformed into the new catwalk with celebrities sashaying to premieres and awards shows in the highest fashions. Before long movie stars and musicians commanded the role of cover model.

The change was gradual at first. Kim Basinger graced the cover of Vogue‘s May issue in ‘91. Madonna made the cut in October of ‘92. In ‘93, Vogue made room for Princess Diana, Winona Ryder and Sharon Stone.

By the early 2000s a seismic shift had occurred within the industry forcing supermodels onto the endangered species list. Between ‘01 and ‘12 supermodels combined for a dismal 19 covers of Vogue. Fashion mavens like Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwenyth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston became the most sought after cover girls.

Paul Warren is a session stylist for photo shoots and runway shows in New York City. He has felt this transference within the industry.

“I noticed a change after 9/11,” Warren said. “I’m not sure if I’m right about that or not,” he continued, “but things started to dwindle” on the editorial pages.

At that time advertisers began staking their claim in the fashion world causing a detriment to its virtuosity. It became customary for designers to pay American magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar for ad space before their pieces could appear in editorials. Given these constraints, insiders like Warren have gravitated towards European magazines such as Vogue Paris, Vogue Italia, Self Service, POP and Gentle Woman for inspiration and expertise.

Mark E is an online fashion writer in northern England who echoes Warren’s enthusiasm for European editorials.

“Carine Roitfeld’s version of Vogue Paris was so inspiring to me a few years back,“ Mark E said. “It was like no other. Every idea of hers was mind blowing.”

With European magazines less beholden to advertisers, editors and stylists are unrestrained with their creativity. “I feel European magazines benefit from a freer, less puritanical mindset,” Warren said.

Lately, a resurgence of fresh faces has galvanized the industry and American magazines are capitalizing on their international popularity.

Joan Smalls, Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss on the cover of Vogue, September 2014. Emme Kathleen Hepburn Ferrer on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, September 2014. Natalia Vodianova on the cover of Vogue, October 2014

Joan Smalls, Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss on the cover of Vogue, September 2014. Emme Kathleen Hepburn Ferrer on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, September 2014. Natalia Vodianova on the cover of Vogue, October 2014

This year Joan Smalls, Cara Delevingne , Karlie Kloss, Arizona Muse, Edie Campbell, Imaan Hammam, Fei Fei Sun, Vanessa Axente and Andreea Diaconu shared a three-page layout for the cover of Vogue‘s September issue. Vogue‘s October issue featured Natalia Vodianova on the cover with a dazzling photo spread of the model gliding through the Paris Opera House. Harper’s Bazaar also jumped on the supermodel bandwagon this year. The annual May “Beauty Issue” included dual covers with Kate Moss on the front and Ashleigh Good on the back. The September issue showcased Emme Kathleen Hepburn Ferrer (granddaughter of Audrey Hepburn) as its cover model with a feature story and captivating photos inside.

Vanity Fair got in on the action as well with its annual September “Style Issue.” A smoldering Natalia Vodianova appeared on the cover with an engaging profile by writer Ingrid Sischy inside.

Collage of Natalia Vodianova's spread in Vanity Fair, September 2014. Photos by Mario Testino.

Collage of Natalia Vodianova’s spread in Vanity Fair, September 2014. Photos by Mario Testino

This latest surge of cover models is largely attributed to social media. Daria Werbowy, Natasha Poly, Doutzen Kroes, Anja Rubik and any other model of the moment are consistently trending in the blogosphere. Even Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows have their own Twitter page.

Social media has played a “huge part” in this upswing of model popularity, Mark E said.

Some feel as though social media has made today’s top models too accessible — one can only absorb so many selfies of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model before she begins to lose her luster. Others view this medium as an exciting avenue ushering models back into the mainstream. Only time will tell if the new darlings of fashion will dominate the industry like the supers of yesteryear.

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